Richard Thompson to retire Cul de Sac

Richard Thompson, the creator of Cul de Sac, has decided to retire the strip next month. In a letter to newspapers, Universal Uclick’s Lee Salem writes:

On September 9, 2007, the remarkable talent of Richard Thompson hit the newspaper pages in the comic strip Cul de Sac. The buzz began even before the strip debuted; Bill Watterson emerged from his retirement to praise the strip’s writing, artwork and imagination. In May, 2011, Richard received the Cartoonist of the Year award from the National Cartoonists Society, an amazing achievement in so short a time.

But the last year has been a struggle for Richard. Parkinson’s Disease, first diagnosed in 2009, has so weakened him that he is unable to meet the demands of a comic strip. For a time, he worked with another artist, but the deadlines became too much of a task. So it is with personal and professional sadness that I inform you he has decided to end Cul de Sac. The last strip (an original) will be run on Sunday September 23, 2012.

In a Q&A released by Universal, Richard explains why he made this difficult decision:

Q: Can you tell us a little about why you’ve decided to suspend Cul De Sac?

A. I was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease in the summer of 2009. At first it didn’t affect my drawing, but that’s gradually changed. Last winter I got an excellent cartoonist, Stacy Curtis, to ink my roughs, which was a great help. But now I’ve gotten too unreliable to produce a daily strip.

Q: Did you consider using a full-time artist and continuing?

A. Yeah, I considered everything: hiring an artist, going Sunday-only, trying to do the whole thing with Photoshop, leaving blank pages on my drawing board overnight and hoping elves would show up and draw some strips. But none of the solutions I came up with satisfied me. They all seemed to suck the fun of the job. And really, if you’re going to have a job as intensive as drawing a comic strip, it’d better be fun.

Q. What’s your prognosis?

A. Parkinson’s is incurable, but it is treatable to a certain extent. The treatment combines medication and movement exercises designed to slow the progress of the disease. You pretty much have to run as fast as you can to stay in the same place. And I’m in line for a procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation where a neurosurgeon attaches jumper cables to your brain.

The last strip will run September 23rd.

54 thoughts on “Richard Thompson to retire Cul de Sac

  1. I’ll repeat what I just wrote on Facebook. I’ll never stop singing the praises of Cul de Sac.

    Not that long ago, a perfect comic strip was syndicated. Any proclamations of the demise of the great newspaper comic strip was completely obliterated by the debut of Cul de Sac.

    When Richard was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease it felt like a punch in the stomach, but he carried on with such professionalism and good spirits that I felt every drawing he made and story he wrote was simply a blessing.

    Ending the strip is not surprising and Richard’s health is much more important that a daily deadline. He has set the bar incredibly high for cartoonists who, like me, didn’t think there was even a bar left in this medium.

  2. That’s a sad and brutal way to end a good strip’s run. I don’t know if there’s any kind of a good outcome for Richard’s situation but my thoughts go out to him and his family.

  3. Richard, you have been a huge inspiration to me and I want to thank you for giving us fans and peers such an awesome catalog of work. I will keep you in my prayers and thrive to be at least half as good as you with my own work… half as good as you would be pretty dang good by any means of measure.

  4. Many people are unaware that RT might be one of the best caricaturists ever. Period. There’s a devil may care element in his line that is only guided by unencumbered freedom. Poor Richards Almanac (WAPOST for years) was/is brilliant. Especially the fake restaurant reviews. Sad to see this happen to such a young Father / husband. God bless him and his family.

  5. I’m so sorry to hear this news. I agree wholeheartedly with Stephen and Mike. Richards art will be missed. Sending my best wishes to Richard and his family.

  6. This only makes me appreciate even more the tiny taste of Richard’s talents that we were all offered.

    It was wonderful to see Stacy step up to help work on the strip, so I hope we will eventually see a complete CDS collection in its entirety. They’re all wonderful memories to continue cherishing.

    Thank you, Richard, for offering us such a unique style to learn from and enjoy.

  7. Big picture, a daily comic strip is less important than Richard having the time and energy to take care of himself. All my best wishes to the creator of the best strip being produced today, and I look forward to seeing any work he wants to put out into the world when he can.

  8. Do what ya gotta do, Richard. CUL DE SAC elevated all of us. After Sept. 23, the comics page is gonna get suckier.

  9. Unfortunately, we all knew this day would come. We had all hoped it would be much, much farther in the future.

    Richard is not only one of the great cartoonists, but he’s also a nice guy. To see this taken from him is nothing short of heartbreaking.

    Somewhere, there’s an lonely manhole cover…

  10. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Thompson since he was doing incidental illustrations for The Washington Post. He then moved on to doing “Richard’s Poor Almanac” which appeared most weeks (The periodic restaurant health closing were particularly funny (I’ll miss you PJ Pieholes)).

    His wit and humor will be sorely missed. I only hope 1) a cure for this devastating disease is found some and 2) he finds some other outlet for his whimsey so that we may continue to have a guaranteed smile occasionally.

  11. I’m sorry to hear this news. I’ve met Richard and he’s a charming and funny guy. Great strip, but ultimately, he needs to take care of his health. I’ll be praying you Bro.

  12. It had been in daily reruns for several weeks now and I knew the strip would cease sometime soon…

  13. Cul de Sac and Richard deserve all the praise we can give and more. I am sad to see the strip end but glad to know he’ll have this time to focus on taking good care of himself. Best wishes to you and your family, Richard!

  14. Richard, wishing you only the very best in health and life–you’re one talented soul.

  15. Wow, truly sad news — but I want to be upbeat for Richard’s continued battle against Parkinson’s and to shine a light on just how lucky we have all been to be given the gift of Richard’s
    talent. I believe Cul de Sac to be one of the greatest comic strips of all time. His work on paper and his fight against Parkinson’s are both equally inspirational. Thank you, Richard!
    -Brian Basset

  16. I am honored in knowing Richard Thompson, not only as a fan but also a friend. He is truly one of a kind.

    Richard has to do what is best for him and his battle with Parkinson?s has put a lot of things in perspective in my life, as it should. Maybe we all should take a look at what is important to us and see how lucky we have life and how fast life can change in a moment. A person?s wellbeing is more important than a silly comic strip. On that note, that silly comic strip, Cul de Sac, is the best strip in decades and will be recognized as one of the great strips in cartooning.

    Richard should be proud in what he has given readers over the last few years. His insight of the world of cartooning is a rare gem. A master at anything he has created. Is there a nicer person on the planet than Richard. No.

    Ok Richard, ready for our museum stroll? I am.

  17. A sad moment for the world of comics. A truly remarkable talent is leaving the stage. RT, you’ll be truly missed. God’s speed.

  18. I’m so sorry to hear this very distressing news. Richard is truly one of the most gifted cartoonist/illustrator/artist of the past couple of decades. God bless him and his family.

  19. This is terrible news for the legions of comics readers who look to Richard’s work as the bright spot of the comics section. But if it helps Richard in his fight against this horrible disease, I’m glad he’s doing what he needs to do.

    Best of everything to you,

    Jason Campbell

  20. Thank you, Richard Thompson for sharing five year’s of Cul de Sac’s brilliant art with fresh wit with us. You have brightened my life and the lives of many with your magnificent creations. You are a truly great cartoonist.

    My best wishes and warmest thoughts to you as you engage your challenges ahead.


  21. Thank you all for the kind words! I’m proud to’ve been a syndicated daily newspaper cartoonist, than which there’s no nobler profession.

    But really, I’m just quitting; I’m not retiring.

  22. Cul de sac is one of those strips I enjoy looking at just the art first, then read the strip. Just really love the scratchiness to the art. Has a fun look.

    All the best to you and your family
    Mr. Thompson!

  23. Heartbreaking news. Richard is an immense talent and a true gentleman. CUL DE SAC will truly be missed.

  24. A class act with a cultured eye in an uncultured time decides it’s time to complete his last sketchy line…

    And the audience roars to its feet. Sublime.

  25. Thank you for all the joy you’ve brought to our lives; your puckish sense of the absurd has no rival.
    Onward, with all our best wishes, for your coming treatments!

  26. So sorry to hear this. Richard is truly talented &Cul de Sac is one of my favorites! Best wishes to Richard & his family.

  27. Very sorry to see Cul de Sac end. Richard, I hope we’ll still see some occasional work by you in the Post (“Richard’s Extremely Sporadic Almanac,” anyone?).

  28. This five years has been better than most syndicated strips are in a lifetime. Let’s hope the reruns reach the audience it deserves.

    Keep well, Richard.

  29. I will forever miss more fun and laughs with the Otterloop family and friends and I thank Richard so much for his great talent in bringing them forth. Good luck to you Richard and your family.

  30. While Richard’s news initially saddened me, I’m focusing instead on the great work he created (and WILL create, albeit in different avenues). You won’t find a nicer or humbler (or, it goes without saying, more talented) guy than Richard…best wishes in your next chapter! I can’t wait to see it!

  31. Such an amazing strip. I just hope Richard is able to get better and live a life free of effects of this disease as much as possible even if this means no more Cul Da Sac. Just get better Richard. No one should have to suffer like this.

  32. My wife is a DBS nurse and advised cartoonist Peter Dunlap-Shohl on his PD treatment. He does cartoons reflecting on his Parkinson’s that help explain the disease to others… perhaps at some point you could do something similar.

    Good luck with everything, including your DBS.

  33. I’m sure the elves wouldn’t have done Richard’s strip justice … they tend to be a humorless bunch. Sad as it is, he certainly made the right decision.

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